Research Learning Experience Part of UMaine’s Fall Return Plans Tuition-Free

Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 11:57 AM EDT
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ORONO, Maine (WAGM) - The University of Maine and its regional campus, the University of Maine at Machias, will welcome approximately 600 incoming and second-year students to college this August for a week-long start of Research Learning Experience that will extend through the fall semester. The tuition-free student success and retention pilot is part of the Harold Alfond Foundation-backed UMS TRANSFORMS Initiative. It provides new students with hands-on, immersive learning opportunities that are typically available to juniors and seniors.

Research Learning Experiences (RLEs) are exploratory learning projects that invite students to find their passion and make impactful connections through hands-on learning and the creation of new knowledge. Students are engaged in projects where they can learn by doing, express themselves artistically, contribute to a team or service initiative, or pose a unique question and collect the information that solves the mystery and advances our understanding of the universe.

First and returning second-year students will have an opportunity to choose from more than 30 one-credit courses across a range of disciplines and topics. The program begins with an immersive, week-long experience on campus or at learning sites starting on Aug. 23. The tuition cost of the credit is waived, and financial aid and scholarships are available for the $390 fee associated with educational and entertainment activities.

“College is a life-changing experience, and the more a student is involved in that process the more effective it becomes,” said John Volin, UMaine executive vice president of academic affairs and provost. “This new opportunity at UMaine and UMaine Machias transforms our students into producers of knowledge and not just consumers, starting in their very first semester.”

“Innovative research learning experiences are a great example of how we will be helping students transition successfully to college and past the disruptions of the pandemic. We are eager to introduce a new cohort of learners to research and creative endeavors as they begin their college experience at the state’s land, sea, and space grant university and our regional campus, the University of Maine at Machias,” said University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy.

“Our faculty are leading the innovation,” continued Ferrini-Mundy. “We will take what we learn from this year’s pilot and bring transformative change to higher education and strengthen our student success culture by making research learning experiences available to every incoming student in the University of Maine System in the next few years.”

“Connection is one of the keys to student success,” said UMFK President Deb Hedeen. “We will be assessing how students discover their interests and develop meaningful relationships with friends and mentors throughout the UMaine and UMM student research learning experience pilot to establish similar learning opportunities at the other campuses.”

Ferrini-Mundy is co-principal investigator of UMS TRANSFORMS, the project developed to implement the $240 million challenge grant provided to the University of Maine System by the Harold Alfond Fond Foundation. She also is the UMS vice chancellor for research and innovation and will be co-teaching ‘Reason why?’ an RLE that challenges students to use data to develop and test claims about how people learn mathematics. Volin is the lead of the UMS TRANSFORMS Student Success and Retention Initiative and Hedeen is the co-lead.

“This is exactly what we had in mind when we announced our commitment to the University of Maine System in October,” said Greg Powell, chair of the Harold Alfond Foundation. “First-year, small-group exploratory learning prepares students for college success and provides the skills they will need to succeed in a world where the pace of change continues to accelerate.”

Supporting Transformative Change and Maine Students

The Alfond Foundation’s challenge grant provides $20 million for student success and retention initiatives and challenges the University of Maine System to raise $25 million more to establish a student success culture and programs that improve outcomes through connection and engagement. The University of Maine Foundation has established a giving page for the Research Learning Experience that provides donors an opportunity to support the initiative and leverage funds committed by the Alfond Foundation.

“We have worked fast and are off to a great start with our student success and retention initiative,” said Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “Hundreds of our new students will get a fantastic educational and life experience this fall thanks to the generosity and vision of the Harold Alfond Foundation. With the support of alumni and friends, we can extend this opportunity to every incoming student across the University of Maine System and provide Maine learners an incredible head start on their college and career success.”

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